Inside a Brooklyn Hospital During COVID-19
The number of very sick COVID patients coming in is tremendous. I don’t know if the word is exponentially or logarithmically, but the curve goes up steeply. It’s scary. Mount Sinai Brooklyn is a moderate-sized community hospital. We have 220 beds, we’ve planned a surge of up to 240 to 260. At the current moment I have 135 COVID-positive patients. There are probably another 10 or 15 that just don’t have test results back yet. And they are sick. They are the ones who need to be admitted to the hospital. It’s a few debilitated elderly from nursing homes, but there’s a lot of patients who are between the ages of 40 to 60 who may have some underlying health problems like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, and their lungs are very inflamed. They go from being moderately sick to crashing and needing to put on ventilators very quickly.
The emergency department is just patient-to-patient lined up and packed in. It’s that awful picture you see of an overcrowded emergency department, just patient upon patient next to each other endlessly. It sounds like a low-level buzz of chaos. We have a no-visitor policy so that helps maintain a bit of control over things and allows a little bit of sanity, but it’s minimal. If every patient had one or two family members next to them, it would be unbearable.
People have compared this to the early days of HIV. It feels like I can imagine how that was, but the numbers are more now. If you went back to that time, it was predominantly the gay community and focused in certain geographic parts of the city. This is every single hospital in the city, multiple patients dropping their oxygen levels surprisingly fast and being put on ventilators with no way to make them better. I’ve been through the blackout. I’ve been through Sandy. I’ve been through the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. And this is different. 9/11 was a horrendous thing, but there was no impact like this on hospitals. Sandy, some hospitals were completely devastated, and it was horrendous and awful, but the weather got better. And you could start cleaning up. But this is just getting worse. I have never been in a war. It feels like a war.